The Big Game of Hide and Seek

Grace and Peace to you, beloved children of God.  Amen.

 

Last week I suggested you sit and read the gospel of Mark.  To hear it with new ears and listen for things you might never have thought existed.  I told you Mark moves quickly from one thing to another.  There is an immediacy about Mark gospel.  And you won’t always feel comforted by what happens.

 

Sometimes it’s important for us to be taken outside of our comfort zone.  To be placed in the wilderness where life isn’t all sweet dreams and cotton candy.  And the wilderness is exactly where Mark’s gospel starts.   It is a wilderness where we will constantly hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.  It is where we will be pushed outside of our nice little boxes, which protect us from the evils of the world.

 

Think about the wilderness, for us like those in Mark’s time we have experienced the physical desert.  Many of us have hiked and/or camped in the desert.  It’s a place you do not go unprepared or you may not come back alive.  We realize there is more to a desert than first meets the eye.  The desert is a dry place where water is difficult to find.  The sun may be hot during the day, but nights are cold.  Extreme temperature changes happen as the sun goes down.  Yet this is also when the most activity occurs in a desert.  The dark brings out the wildlife.  And it is in this harsh environment, we find God.  For the desert is a beautiful world for those who are prepared.  It is a world where life is continually being created. 

 

Mark’s first audience doesn’t need a lot of backstory because they are living the story, so this gospel leaves out the genealogy of Jesus.  It does not need the beautiful image of Jesus being born.  Instead it launches us into the Good News of Jesus with just a preface, because the first audience is already experiencing the harsh reality of their lives.  They understand the brutality of their government – Roman.  They know life itself is like a desert, with hardship and pain.  So Mark’s preface takes us into the world of John the Baptist.  A man described like a man of old – Elijah – the prophet of old who foretells the coming of a new age.  John wears camel skins, eats bugs, and scavenges for edible food.  John is the image of a haggard, homeless person, smelly and ravaged by life.  His voice is probably hoarse voice from projecting his message loudly for all to hear.  His message is one of preparing the way for a person greater than himself.  John is shown as Elijah of old who proclaims God’s message, “Prepare the way!  I am coming to my people (whether they are ready or not.)”

 

And the people hear John.  At first just a few come.  They hear the message, go back and tell others.  Those too come out and listen as John keeps repeating his message over and over again.  Prepare the Way of the Lord.  God is coming.  The people hear, go back and tell more, until even those who in far flung places like Jerusalem are coming out into the desert as well.  These people come to hear a promise of new life in the midst of the harsh reality of life.  They come seeking forgiveness, repenting their sins, and are washed in the Jordan River just as the first Israelites were as crossed over the river into the Promised Land after fleeing Egypt and living in the desert for 40 years. John preached a message of repentance and baptism to prepare the people for something greater than any could imagine – A messiah who would save the world once for all people over all time. 

 

God is in-breaking into the world.  The promise of God’s return is imminent.  We can be certain of it. Just as we can be certain God is the seeker in the largest game ever of Hide and Seek.  God will find everyone.  God’s patience endures forever.  So go, prepare to be found.  For as in hide and seek, it can be fun at times to hide, but the joy happens when we are found.  God is seeking all.  All will be found.  For remember God’s time is unlike ours.  As we heard in 2nd Peter, “Do not ignore this one face, beloved, with Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.  The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”

 

We have already been found.  We belong to God.  We have been baptized – called and claimed by God.  The game of hide and seek is taking place around us.  God is the seeker.  We are called to be proclaimers like John the Baptist before us.  We are the ones who have experienced the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We know what it is like to live in the deserts of our lives with the fear and desolation caused by the harsh realities of the world we live in.  We know the difficulties of disease, hunger, war, and despair. Yet the in-breaking of Christ is taking place.  God has already entered into the struggles of the world.  Emmanuel – God with Us – is here.  We no longer need to fear death for death has been conquered once for all people.  This Advent season as we continue to await Christ’s second coming, we are called to be seekers in the great game of hide and seek.  We are called to proclaim the Good News as John did, so all might continue to hear God’s love for all creation.  God will not stop until all are found.  This is the Good News.  God’s love is all encompassing.  It is for everyone.  No one is excluded.  All are welcome into God’s Kingdom. Amen.

Choices

Life is full of choices.  It's like climbing a tree.  As you climb the trunk of the you will come to forks where various limbs branch off.  Each time you come to a fork you will need to make a choice - do you continue to climb, if so which branch will you go up, or will you climb down and try a new pathway.

Our faith life is the same.  For some people their faith life is like climbing a tall ponderosa pine tree.  It's one straight shot up the tree from baptism to death and resurrection.  For others, you will climb various branches going up and finding it's not the path for you and coming back down the branch to the fork and going up a new one.  And sometimes the branches end up with dead wood and when our weight goes on the limb we come crashing down to the ground and have to start over again.

In Ephesians 4 Paul says, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift." (Ephesians 4:4-7 NRSV)

Sometimes we are so worried about the pathway to the top, we fail to realize we are all part of one body, one faith, and one baptism.  Our choices make a difference to how we live and experience our life, yet the same God gifts us all with grace for their is only one body, one baptism and one God. T

his is a blessing which has been bestowed on each of us.  A blessing we are called to bless others with. So today remember you are blessed to be a blessing.  Live your calling as God's beloved child, blessing all you encounter. For we are all rooted in one faith, one baptism, and one God. 

-Pastor Sarah

Be Still

“Be still and know that I am God!” - Psalm 46:10 - this verse has always been a favorite of mine.  It brings me comfort in the midst of the storms of life.  It is written on a painting on my office wall.  And as I write this article I look at it yet again, slowing myself down, and remembering who is God and who is not.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of life at this time of year.  Our days seem to become fuller and fuller.  There is always so much to do in order to get ready for holiday guests.  As a child I once thought there was a lot of time between Halloween and New Year’s Day, but as I have grown up the time between these holidays has blurred with little breathing room as we prepare and celebrate Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas.  There is no break to rest and relax as we prepare our homes for the holidays and still participate in all the daily events of life.  This lack of time leaves little space to remember who we are and why God created us. 

The 10 Commandments tell us clearly we belong to God.  We have been adopted as heirs of Christ in our baptism.  The first commandment tells us – I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other God before me.  We belong fully to Jesus who creates, saves, and sustains us.  Yet our lives often do not reflect this fact.

The third commandment tells us the importance of rest as we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.  The Sabbath was never created for God, who does not require to rest, but instead the Sabbath was created as a gift of God for us.  We need it not only to survive but to function.  We often believe the Sabbath rest must occur only Sundays, but truly this Sabbath rest is something our bodies are designed to do on a daily basis.  It is a time for us to stop everything and refocus on what is truly important in our lives – God, family, and community.

Keeping the Sabbath and remembering God is Lord of all is something for us to do daily.  As you go through these days, I challenge you to set aside 15 minutes each day to stop and be still.  Don’t think about what needs to be done.  Don’t see it as just one more item to be checked off a list in an already full schedule.  Instead focus the time as a space where you are privileged to spend it in stillness with Jesus, getting to know him as Lord of all.  Take the time to just be present, listening to Jesus as you wait for his coming again.

“Be still and know that I am God!”

Holes

Pastor Sarah

As I walked the beach I was attracted to the small stones with various holes in them.  I wondered about the holes, how were they made, what was their purpose, and what images in my own life could I use this as a metaphor about.  The reason for them became quickly apparent as I picked up one stone which had small mollusks in it.  They were using it not only as a home protect themselves, but also as a way to hold themselves in one place without being washed about so easily.

I began to wonder about my own life, what rock was I using as my stronghold?  As a pastor I know God is my rock and my salvation.  But as I pondered the question I realized yes, God is my rock, but we look to our churches, our congregations to be the stabilizing force.  And sometimes that place looks like the stones I found on the beach.  They are holey.  Some holes are filled with people, burrowing in for protection, some holes are empty waiting for a new occupant because a beloved member died or moved.  And some holes re in the making as people come and go.  Yet, what is consistent is God's love and mercy.  The Word of God is proclaimed and practiced.  It sends us out of our protective space and allows us to live in the world, but we know we have a place to come back to.

As we build our new building, remember the building it is not God, nor is it the body of Christ.  Instead it is a place of sanctuary from the stories, a place to hear God's word, a place of mission, and a place to be sent back out into the world.  As important as the building is, it is nothing without the body of Christ doing the work of God. You are an important and beloved member of the body of Christ.  Never forget this and remember there is always room in our rock for one more hole where you and a friend may find sanctuary.

 

Stewarding our Life

Pastor Sarah

Stewardship goes far beyond just our offerings.  It hits every part of our lives.  When God created the world, God created humankind in God's very own image to be in relationship with our world.  One of the first things God did was to command us to steward creation - to care for all of creation.

Last week in the Gospel reading from Matthew we heard how a landowner had created a vineyard and placed tenants there to tend the vineyard.  Those tenants worked hard, they poured their very lives into stewarding the vineyard.  In fact, they put so much effort into it, that they forgot whose land it was and felt they deserved credit for all they did.  They wanted everything for themselves and were even willing to kill for it.

Often in our lives we are like the tenants, we believe that what we have is because of our own efforts and has nothing to do with the God who created us in God's own image.  In the process we fail to realize we are stewarding what God has given us - our time, our gifts, even our very own lives - to care and tend for, but that it doesn't belong to us but to God. 

And these gifts go far and wide.  They include gifts of compassion and relationship.  How do we live our lives in response to what God has given us?  Do we live it in relationship with others?  Do we live it in prayer and encouragement for those around us?  Do we live it in study of God's Word?  Or instead do we live it in a grudging manner where we allow small snippets of God's Grace for the world to shine through, while the rest of the time is spent building up our idols to ourselves and the lives we believe we have created on our own?

"Amen"

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Pastor Ron Zielske

The word literally means “so be it”. We use amen also to indicate an ending or to
put an exclamation mark on some important word or message the pastor or
others say. It is a fitting word for the end of my interim ministry at LOM.
It is important to have a time to say goodbye. Then you can fully welcome and
say hello to Pastor Sarah and I will be on to my next interim ministry in Escalon, CA.
I certainly thank the good people at LOM for welcoming me and working in
mission and ministry with them.
There are many goodbyes and hellos in our lives. Every transition in our life
needs to fully embrace both. The transitions may be ones we want as new job,
going to college, and new house ones we don’t want like the loss of a loved one.
Regardless we always need to say goodbye in order to say hello. And we often
live in the in between time, where the hellos have not yet come. In those times
we seek God’s word and sacrament, the comfort, support and wisdom of friends
and strength from our own experiences in life.
Every transition needs a ritual around goodbye and a hello. The church has
some that have been used for years. Others can be created. We gather friends
at those times to grieve or celebrate with us. All losses, however small need to
be grieved over and every hello needs a great celebration.
We are in the goodbye process now at LOM, and very soon there will be a great
celebration when Pastor Sarah and her family arrive. We are doing the transition
well.
May all your transitions add to your well being.

Dog days of Summer

Pastor Ron Zielske

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, a day off for many people and a time for rest, and BBQ, being with friends or family.  The summer is also a time for vacation and time.  Rest is good for you body, mind and spirit.  After all, God set the example and took a day off.  Jesus frequently took time off for rest and connection with God. 
In our harried and hurried everyday world we wear out in no time and are grouchy, unproductive and don’t even like ourselves.  We need dog days.  God made us so we can live a balanced life of work and duties, rest, social interaction, physical activities, prayer and worship.  On a scale of 1-10 how are you in each of these areas?  Rate yourself and then list one or two things you can do in the area(s) that are really low. 
Then, find a friend who will encourage you in your balanced life.  Jesus said I have come that you may have abundant life.  Jesus was talking about life with him in a balanced way here and now.  
I wish you a balanced and abundant life.